Ken Davy: Huddersfield Town saint or sinner
May 22 2009 By Examiner
AS Huddersfield Town’s centenary season comes to a close, it is timely to remember the club almost didn’t reach that 100-year landmark.
When Town went into administration in 2003 – with debts of almost £20m – there was a very real prospect that the club, "thrice champions" in the 1920s, would disappear .
There was no line of Blue and White billionaires queuing to invest in the ailing club.
That’s when Ken Davy, chairman of Huddersfield Giants, stepped in with the cash to keep the football club going.
However Mr Davy, who is soon to relinquish chairmanship to Dean Hoyle, has divided opinion among Town fans.
For many supporters, the issue that will define Mr Davy’s reign is not that 11th-hour rescue act, it is the issue of shares in the stadium.
Mr Davy bought Town’s 40% stake in the company running the stadium – Kirklees Stadium Development Ltd (KSDL) – as part of his takeover of Town after the club went into administration in March, 2003.
At the time, administrators at insolvency firm Begbies Traynor valued those shares at just £2 in total – reflecting the size of the stadium’s debts and the potential for Town to forfeit its shares in KSDL if Town’s liabilities to the stadium company were not met.
Those shares were subsequently transferred to Huddersfield Sporting Pride Ltd (HSPL), a company set up by Mr Davy, which "ringfenced" the stadium shares and protected both Town and the Giants from any potential liabilities the stadium company incurred.
Some have even suggested Town should fund its own stadium, posing the question: Who would have most to lose if the club quits the Galpharm? Mr Davy’s critics feel the decision to retain Town’s 40% stake in the stadium company following the handover leaves the club with no financial stake in its future – and no prospect of profiting from the proposed multi-million pound development of the stadium complex.
The HD One scheme, launched last year, envisages major development of the 54 acres around the ground to provide a premier tourist destination with attractions including a ski slope, a bowling alley, a hotel, offices, restaurants and bars.
While the recession has put those plans on hold, in the long term KSDL – with Mr Davy the majority shareholder – stands to make money from the scheme should it be realised.
Without a stake in KSDL, Town would see no direct benefit in terms of cash to spend on players.
What is beyond dispute is that Ken Davy saved Town from oblivion, and that with no other viable proposal on the table, Begbies Traynor was carrying out its duty to seek the best possible outcome in accepting the takeover offer.
Certainly, Sir John Harman, who chairs KSDL, is in no doubt about Mr Davy’s legacy as he hands over to Dean Hoyle.
Sir John said: "The handover marks a milestone in the Huddersfield Town story and everyone is looking forward to the new season.
"Dean brings great energy and commitment to the club. He can build on the foundations laid by Ken Davy, who will always be honoured here for the way in which he stepped into save the historic football club from oblivion and then built it back on a sound footing.
"There would be no exciting future had Ken not invested his own money and also a huge amount of his own time and effort over the last few years."
But Huddersfield Town Supporters Association chairman Marcus Middleton has a very different verdict – saying that many fans are unhappy that Mr Davy is retaining the club’s 40% stake in KSDL despite giving up the chairmanship.
Said Mr Middleton: "We feel we need the shares back and hopefully Mr Davy will do the right thing – either give back the shares or sell them.
"Dean Hoyle just owns the players and the staff. He has no stake in the stadium whatsoever, which is wrong."